Sunday, 28 February 2016

3WTM February 2016 Playlist

As always this month's playlist is available to stream on Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music.

Neil's choices:

Ezra Furman - Lousy Connection
After a few aborted attempts over the last year or so, I finally got to see Ezra Furman live this week. Coming less than a week after a colossal performance by John Grant, the gig had a lot to live up to, but Ezra did not disappoint. His band, the boyfriends, were amazing, both with their instruments and with their backing vocals, and Ezra was triumphant with his soulful fury. This track is taken from his latest album (released last year).

Steve Mason - Planet Sizes
A new album from Steve Mason beckons and this is the first single from it. I was never really into the Beta Band, but I've been really pleased with Steve Mason's solo stuff (well, what I've heard anyway).

Beirut – Perth
Sometimes I wonder if my musical tastes are changing as I mellow into middle-age and then I realise that my musical tastes are chosen for me by the music that is fed to me each day by the radio. This has a classic ear worm organ hook...

Animal Collective – FloriDada
... And here's another catchy hook that's lodged itself in my cranium as well as my daughter's and my wife's. Animal Collectives "My Girls" was a real favourite of mine, this is much more poppy and radio-friendly. I shouldn't like it, but I do. And I bet you two do too.

My fifth song would have been the most excellent first single off The Wave Pictures upteenth album, but as they're only releasing it as a very short (1000) run of vinyl LPs then there's no way it's going to turn up on Google Music (would be interested to know if you get any joy from Spotify and Apple though?) So, I then moved onto The Coral (appeared only a few playlists ago, so bad timing), Bob Mould (single and album not out yet, so not currently available online), and Damien Jurado (same). Fifth choice (and I was scraping the bottom of the barrel by now) was

Blossoms - At Most a Kiss
If I had a pound for every time someone prefixes the name of this band with "Stockport's" then I'd have £47.62 by now. A slice of indie pop that's nice to drive to.

John's Choices:

So I could have played it safe this month, James have new material out that I really like, Cloud Cult have a new album out that I've been playing regularly, Hot Hot Heat and OK Go both have songs I've been enjoying. However if you aren't in to those bands yet, I'm never going to get you in to those bands. Try these that I've just been getting to know.

The Arcs - Stay In My Corner
I've put this in for Neil although he's probably all over them, what with their Black Keys link Dan Auerbach (guitarist/vocalists).

Richard Lomax - I Cycle
This is my favourite for the month. Anybody who samples a bike noise to set his tune to and makes it work deserves some kudos. I always like it when the artist themselves contact me too, makes me feel like they really care about their music too. Richard is from Manchester and is a pretty prolific writer,  having written 52 songs last year. Practice makes perfect.

Bellevue Days - Ripped Jeans
The guys from Croydon are celebrating the announcement of their inclusion on the DIY and Generator Mapped Out Tour. Pop guitar band that ticks the right boxes for me.

Infidelity - Mutineers
For a band who claim to have driven their fan base via social media I can't help but feel driven as they've followed me, unfollowed me and followed me again on Twitter. It's worked though as I've now listened to their material. Another Manchester band, this is off their second album or so I can tell from their other vehicle, Facebook.

Icarus - Vagabond Poets
A footstomping track to end my five. A Scottish unsigned band, or that's what my research tells me. Guess I must have found it on Spotify then.

3WTM February 2016 – Chris’s Choices
Hmm – I think this has been a good month for ‘Prog’. I would share a Steven Wilson track from his new album (4 ½), and it would probably be ‘Don’t Hate Me’ – all 9:35 of it, but he’s not into streaming services, so it won’t be available to you, and so it won’t make its way onto this month’s playlist. However, the prog gods have been generous this month and I think I should make mention of Dream Theater’s ‘The Astonishing’. It is a concept album (which I like) it is a double album (over 2 hours in total) and it has been produced on a big scale (with a full orchestra and choir in places). It tells a story of a future in which there is no music, save for that made by machines, but a hero comes along to bring song to the lives of the repressed masses. It is generally very good, but a bit cheesy in places. It won’t feature on my playlist this month, but ‘The Gift Of Music’ is a fairly representative track which sets the scene for the rest of the album.
So – enough about what I’m not putting on, and on to what I am putting on.
‘Swimming Horses’ by The Mute Gods from ‘Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me’ (2016).
The Mute Gods are a recently formed outfit consisting of various talented musicians who have been doing the rounds for a while including Nick Beggs (the bassist from Kajagoogoo) who wrote most of the material.
‘2013’ by Sunflower Bean from the album ‘Human Ceremony’ (2016)
This is a good album of jangly guitar tunes. Sunflower Bean are a new band from Brooklyn. This probably isn’t the best track on the album, but is good and I’ve chosen it because it links with one of Neil’s tracks from last month which was taken from an album called 2013, despite being released in 2016. In fact, listening now, I think ‘Come On’ would have been a better selection and certainly up Neil’s street, but I’m sticking with ‘2013’.
‘Sauna’ by Gazebos from ‘Die Alone’ (2016)
This is probably in a similar vein. Gazebos are another new act – this time from Seattle. I’ve not yet heard the album all the way through.
‘You and I’ by Margaret Glaspy (single) (2016)
Margaret Glaspy doesn’t have a huge amount of material out on Apple Music – 7 tracks – 5 from an EP in 2013 and then two from her recent single. Apparently she’s got an album coming out in the summer. Anyway, this track is fairly raw, straightforward (drums, bass, single guitar from what I can hear) short and catchy.
So … to redress the balance, another long track …
‘Future You’ by LNZNDRF from ‘LNZNDRF’ (2016)
OK – so this is an instrumental track. I’ve chosen it again because of a link with one of Neil’s track. LNZNDRF (my fingers have trouble typing that) are a side-project comprising members of The National (Devendorfs) and Beirut (Lanz). This album is just out and features 4 instrumental tracks and 4 vocal tracks. Again, I’ve not listened to it all yet, but what I have heard is very good. This track is a builder and is the opener to the album.

Friday, 26 February 2016

3WTM - Albums of the Year 2015

We've tried to put together our favourite albums of the year highlighted by a track so you get it all neatly packaged in to a playlist.

Neil's Top 5 (well 6 but you'll see why)

"Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" the debut album by Courtney Barnett.

I had quite a bit of anticipation for it's release, having been impressed by the earlier single 'History Eraser' and whilst there was initial disappointment of that song not being on the album, that was quickly dispelled by the quality of what was on there. I really like her deadpan delivery and the lyrical content of her songs. The album reached No.16 in the UK charts. The song I would choose for the playlist is the third single from the album "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party".

I think I listened to this album a couple of times and really enjoyed it. I can picture myself now mowing he lawn with it playing in my ears. Really like it.
I thought the album was so-so on the first few listens I had but having really enjoyed this track and letting the rest of the album play I might need to revisit.

"The race for Space" by Public Service Broadcasting.

The next one on the list was also hotly anticipated, and was my first download of a new album in 2015. I had their first album and wondered how they could possibly follow it, as they'd covered subjects as diverse as Spitfires and overnight mail trains on it, but when I found out that it would be a concept album about the space race between the United States and Russia I was very excited. 'Gagarin' was released and it did not disappoint, and then when I finally got chance to listen to the album in its entirety I thought it was just fabulous - very evocative and so well put together. The song I would choose would be "Go!", the second single from the album and probably the most radio-friendly after Gagarin.

Loved the album, and 'Go' is up there with my favourites on there. It isn't in my top 5, solely because I suspected it would be in yours, but in truth. It would probably be my top album of the year.

The Gargarin track blew me away after you pointed it out, I even made my wife listen to it in the car which is a rare occurrence now everything has to be child friendly when we're together. Go is good and again I need to list to this album more. I also enjoyed tracks off their first album.

Green Lanes - Ultimate Painting

The third album is by a band that I only just discovered this year. Ultimate Painting released "(I've got the) sanctioned blues" in the summer and I quickly went to find out more about the band. I could get my hands on their first album (which was a very good listen) but when the second album followed a few weeks after then it did not disappoint. Very much my kind of slow, lethargic rock with cool lyrics, I've chosen the album opener "Kodiac" as the track for the playlist, which would incidentally have been my "brown mammal" track had that particular theme been chosen for the work CD...

Very relaxed American style music. New to me, I shall check it out.

"Are you Satisfied?" by Slaves.

The fourth one is probably my favourite of the year, full of raw energy and simplicity. Every song by them I heard was greeted with a big grin so when the album was released I knew that it would be right up my street, and it's always nice to find songs that you like even more than the ones you thought you liked the best, if you know what I mean. This album really is all killer, no filler. When I saw them at Tramlines in July, they really lived up to the album too - they could be my new favourite band.

John: Snap. I've really enjoyed this album, they featured on the blog back in March and were great for running to this year. When you're digging in there's nothing like The Hunter to kick in and make you feed off the pain "your tired and aching and the pain won't go away". 

"The Tarn Machine" by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican

OK, I don't think you'll find my final album choice on Spotify or Apple Music, so I have a reserve album in place, but would like to record the fact that "The Tarn Machine" by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican really was one of my albums of the year, in terms of listens but also in terms of sheer determination in the face of adversity. In order to keep busy during a year where the band couldn't continue with their incessant touring because of ill health, they took to the studio and produced some of their best work to date. The album is full of black humour and reflects the place that they were (in particular front man Scott Doonican). My favourite track is "Frisky in the jar", a true story of Scott and Amanda's visit to the IVF clinic, and if possible I can add a link to the bandcamp version of the track should it be acceptable. The album didn't chart, and comedy folk is not to everyone's taste, but the triumph of the record begs some recognition.

"Grey Tickles, Black Pressure" by John Grant

So, the final choice would be my wife's favourite album of the year and therefore well listened to by me. It's funky, dark, amusing and well put together, and I think I'll choose Sarah's favourite track "Voodoo Doll" to put on the playlist - a real interesting concept of a song and very catchy. The album reached No. 5 in the UK chart, and rightly so.

John's Top Four

Mirrors - Reverend and the Makers

This will be no surprise to people who know me or who read the blog. I've liked this Sheffield blog ever since Neil introduced them to me many years ago. However their last album didn't receive the amount of plays of previous albums and I hadn't been too hopeful for this release. Yet there seemed to be something different afoot. The Rev (Jon McClure) was talking about it being something special, something without synths, that people within their camp were describing it as the best work they'd done. I've become sceptical over the years about this kind of hyperbole. I've heard The Killers exclaim the next album will include the best song they've ever written, The Foo Fighters say that everybody who has listened to the album has been in tears. Yes you've guessed it, those albums were absolute stinkers, the worst of both their careers. However the Rev is different, he's not a born salesman like most US celebrities are or come across as being.

So the album itself is a journey or so I'm told. However that's not the beauty to me, it's the mix of catchy "bangers" mixed with more complex, lyric rich tracks that have graced previous albums but never in such quality and quantity. So do they still write guitar pop songs? They sure do but no with more depth and variety. Like the joy of feeling the seasons change you can experience different types of songs through the album yet it still feels as a piece of work when listened together.

I've already featured a lot of their material on this blog but so I'm going to choose a different track to share, Blue - a banger of a pop song that didn't even make their live set when I saw them.

Vaccines - English Graffiti

This is another band I have been a fan of for some years and was (I think) again introduced to them by Neil. I had the joy of experiencing this album like a debut album, drip fed a few tracks before being let loose of the full long player. While not reaching the same heights as their previous album, make no mistake this is a cracking album and will be stripped of tracks to go in to various playlists on my phone. 20/20 is a strong pop single from the album although I would probably say album opener Handsome is my favourite as the song pops in my head all the time. However I've had Handsome on a 3WTM playlist before so try 20/20 on for size.

Muse - Drones

Looking at my choices I think we my friends could probably have written this post for me and I think that shows how much I need to widen the amount of albums I listen to and the type of bands. However this is the strongest Muse album since Black Holes and Revelations and possibly of all time? The track I particularly enjoyed from day one is Revolt which sounds very much like The Killers from their early days.

Slaves - Are You Satisfied (see Neil's listing).

Chris’s five picks from 2015

I thought it would be easy to choose five songs which represented 2015, but it wasn’t – two or three were obvious – I almost included a couple of John and Neil’s songs (honourable mentions go to Modest Mouse – The Ground Walks with Time in a Box, and Public Service Broadcasting) but I didn’t. I also didn’t want my five tracks to be regurgitations of things I’d already written about, but some of that has been unavoidable, but there are also a couple of tracks and groups that I haven’t previously talked about. Anyway, on to the tracks …

Belle and Sebastian – The Everlasting Muse

This is probably not the most instantly likeable song on their album ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’ (which is excellent), but is one that has made an impression on me. There are sometimes songs that have an extra appeal – there must be a good phrase to express what I mean, but I don’t think I’ve quite found it yet. Anyway, I love the bass sound in this track, the melody, but the best bit for me is the change of tempo and feel in the chorus.
John: My favourite track of the five you've selected Chris.

The Unthanks – Madam

This song came on the radio (6Music) on my way home from band one evening and I found it instantly captivating. I had to find out more about it – and haven’t shared it yet. The only thing is, I’m not sure how broadly it will appeal, but there you go. The album (Mount The Air) is beautiful, and very much in the same vein as this song. Apparently they specialise in Northumbrian folk music – my knowledge of the various types of folk isn’t very comprehensive, I must say. I tend to like mellow music, but would normally steer clear of adding such a track to a playlist, but felt it should stay as it is definitely from an album that has impressed me this year. I almost opted instead for another song from the album ‘Magpie’ which is hauntingly beautiful and melancholy.

Eaves – As Old as The Grave

Blimey – well, this kind of falls into the same category as the previous track. I haven’t mentioned the ‘What Green Feels Like’ debut album produced by Eaves (Leeds based Joseph Lyons) on the blog, but it has been one of my firm favourites of the year. Again a very folky feel to the whole album which is well worth a listen. Apologies for another downbeat track, but I feel I need to include it.

Calexico – Falling From The Sky

OK – I’ve already blogged about this track earlier in the year, but I love it, and the album, and the band. For me, one of the high points of 2015 musically was finding these. I suppose I could also have gone for ‘Miles From The Sea’, which was on my short list of tracks for the ‘Hydr8ed’ CD compilation, but I think ‘Falling From The Sky’ is better suited for bringing the mood back up. ‘Edge Of The Sun’ is another great album from 2015.

Running With The Wolves – Aurora

Again – another track that I mentioned earlier in the year, but I’ve decided to include it for several reasons: Aurora is in the spotlight at the moment having provided the music for the John Lewis advert; it is a nod to my seeming obsession with ‘wolf’ songs this year; and finally, it is a track that I have played many times without tiring of, and is from the Scandinavian camp I seem to like so much.